October 24, 2016

The Science of Skin and Sleep

Written by Baby Science Coverage Team

Science is taking center stage at this week’s American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition. At the largest gathering of pediatricians in the United States, health care professionals are sharing their latest research and practical applications of emerging science in clinical care. In back-to-back presentations in the AAP exhibit hall, pediatrician-led talks on both the science of skin and the science of sleep offered evidence-based interventions that can substantially improve the quality of baby’s well-being in the long run.

Health is more than just skin-deep

Dr. Paul Horowitz, a California-based general pediatrician, celebrated his 20th AAP meeting with a compelling presentation on clinical care for atopic skin in babies.

“Not a day goes by in the office that someone comes in with a baby having something wrong with their skin,” remarked Dr. Horowitz. The consistency of this need, which pediatricians experience time and time again in their practice, reflects the importance of skin health not only for baby’s well-being, but also for mom and dad’s peace of mind.

Dr. Paul Horowitz

Dr. Paul Horowitz explains the important of skin for baby’s health and happiness.

The most important barrier from physical injury, microbes and chemical agents, the skin also helps to restrict fluid and water loss. For infants and toddlers, these physical functions are essential to healthy early childhood development and health. And because infant skin is thinner, more permeable and more sensitive than adult skin, caring for baby’s skin requires special attention from pediatric caregivers.

Skin dysfunctions, including dry skin, itching and scaling, are both uncomfortable and unhealthy when left untreated in babies. A growing body of evidence is emerging, however, that shows treatment can be as simple as adding colloidal oatmeal emollients to baby’s care regimen. When applied to baby’s skin, colloidal oatmeal has been shown to reduce the skin’s pH level, which spikes with irritations such as eczema, to a normal range. Avenanthramides, found in colloidal oatmeal, offer a “special force field that protects those cells,” Dr. Hotowitz explained to today’s audience.

The A to Zzz’s of a good night’s sleep

Examining next a topic that sits at the intersection of behavioral and medical science, Dr. Jodi Mindell, the associate director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, presented on the science of babies’ sleep.

Babies’ sleep is essential for their healthy development — and also for the well-being of mom and dad. Quality, consistency and duration of sleep have substantial effects on baby’s mood, cognitive function, social-emotional development and emotional regulation. And sleep issues can also increase the risk of health problems, such as obesity.

Dr. Jodi Mindell

Dr. Jodi Mindell offers research supporting the importance of a consistent sleep routine for all babies.

With a range of bedtimes, sleep durations and morning wake times, is there an intervention that can help reduce sleeping issues for babies around the world? The science that Dr. Mindell presented suggests yes: a consistent bedtime routine.

In a cross-cultural examination of consistency of bedtime routines and activities, they varied country by country. Some routines included feeding, massage and a bath, while others included reading or television. While a routine is important, not all routines are created equal. For instance, in a policy paper released just this week, the AAP itself encourage limiting screen time — phones, tablets, and televisions — for the optimal well-being of all children.

A consistent bedtime routine that includes bath, massage and telling stories, when combined with a bedtime before 9 p.m., is as effective as a behavioral treatment to address nighttime wakings and troubled sleeping.  When routines improve, sleep improves, and baby’s next day is healthier and brighter.

For more on the latest science and care for baby’s best start, visit the Crowd360 Baby Science portal and follow live updates from the AAP meeting all week.